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Monday, March 22, 2010

Doomsday Seed Vault Reaches 500k Samples Adds Burpee Section

I have yet to grow a successful garden in my yard. It could be the fact that I have four huge trees standing guard at the corners of my yard shielding it from most of the sunlight available. It could also be the fact that I just plain suck at growing things. That sound you just heard was my Father doing a facepalm over his son’s horticultural ineptitude.

But when I heard that the Svalbard Global Seed vault in the arctic region of Norway hit over half a million samples my mind started short circuiting. Could you imagine standing in the presence of all those seeds, carefully tucked away in four ply protective enclosures at a regulated temperature? I get a little sick standing at the Walmart Burpee seed section thinking about what species I could potentially wipe out of existence with my black thumb. I’ve done some experimenting over the years to try and correct my faults. Recently, I took the approach of putting a tomato plant in the bottom of a hanging basket and putting a couple basil plants on top. I figured the tomato plant would be able to grow down without the need of a stake and the basil would be a nice addition to the mix. I never grew one fruit but the basil did pretty well. I can also grow nice zucchini vines and flowers but never a damn zuc.

Anyway, the point of my story is not my gardening issues but this damn seed vault. How cool is that? Of course, it functions the way a backup server functions in a computer network. There are seed banks all over the place and this one is used for duplicates in the event of global or regional disasters affecting the primary ones, which have happened in the case of the Philippines one flooded from a typhoon in 2006. The one in Norway is supposedly able to withstand global warming, earthquakes, and nuclear strikes. We’re pretty two for three around the world these days on those types of disasters.

This got me to thinking, though. Usually in cases like this the fire department gets a preemptive alarm on my brain. Just follow the smoke. Actually, I’m sure there are safeguards in place for more than just seeds. But what if there aren’t. Think about it? In the bible, whether you choose to believe everything you read, Noah built an ark and herded two of all the animals of the world, and Kathy Lee Gifford onto his Noahwegian Cruise Ship and set sail for higher ground. Unfortunately, dragons, unicorns, fairies, and other “mythical” creatures were told the wrong time and were made extinct. Thank you, Robot Chicken. So, is there any kind of repository for animal species to be preserved in the event of a global disaster? Yeah, kind of… There are things called Frozen Zoos which hold DNA and genetic material thanks to groups like the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species. Think proactive Jurassic Park. They could theoretically revive species that become extinct.

Remember in high school when you learned about the Wonders of the Ancient World? Me neither. But there was a library in Alexandria that held some of the greatest works of ancient writings and it burnt down because Julius Caesar got a little carried away with matches. Kidding again. That’s a theory. Still, the destruction of the library caused a huge gap in written history. That was until Nicholas Cage found scrolls from it along with the Mason’s treasure vault underneath a church in New York City. Once again, kidding.

So, what about an indestructible vault for architectural drawings and concepts, medical procedures, music, writings, and other items of historical worth?  Sure, you have the library of congress and my iPod but what if the attacks on 9/11 would have destroyed more than just a section of the Pentagon. What if the National Archives building were hit? Now, there may be some electronic repository for works of art or architecture that Bill Gates might have come up with but are you willing to expect future generations to recover the history of civilization while waiting for automatic updates to occur on Windows X? Or better yet, an update to the iTunes store. If we’re lucky a monolith will appear somewhere with a service patch that automatically upgrades us to the next version.

Let's put Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich in charge of the scenarios and in the event that some disaster does occur, and Al Gore will stand there saying I told you so, it would be nice to offer future generations a blueprint and set of tools to get civilization back up and running quicker than a millennium of incremental baby steps. My brother said, “We should start sticking stuff up on Mars…you know…before we move.” I told him we should think about the future and buy a franchise operation of an EZ Storage business and place it right between the Walmart and Starbucks. That’s a couple years away, at least. Maybe by then we’ll have a fix for social security, healthcare, and a better way for me to grow tomatoes in my yard. If I’m lucky I can swing by the Mars Walmart for some Burpee seeds, a Caramel Macchiato from Marsbucks and a copy of the National Audubon Society’s Guide To Better Growing. One can only hope.

Funny Footnotes

Mars-Evans City Storage
Mars does have a storage business.  But the Starbucks and Walmart are miles away.

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